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Barrel Noir - Almanac Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Barrel NoirBarrel Noir

Educational use only; do not reuse.

75 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 75
Hads: 420
Avg: 4.04
pDev: 20.79%
Wants: 71
Gots: 69 | FT: 8
Brewed by:
Almanac Beer Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Trilogy31 on 02-14-2013

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

This oak-aged ale is our love letter to bourbon barrels. Barrel Noir is a sumptuous, inky ale that celebrates the velvety texture and subtle heat that only Kentucky charred oak can impart. Born from a blend of American imperial stout and Belgian-inspired dark ale aged in bourbon barrels, this rich brew can be paired with braised beef dishes and dark chocolates. Enjoyed best in front of a warm fireplace.
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Reviews: 75 | Hads: 420
Photo of kojevergas
2.9/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

50% Dark Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels. 50% American Imperial Stout. 10% ABV confirmed. Cast was $10 USD for a 375ml brown glass bottle with a branded pressure cap and a fancy etched label. Oak-aged according to the label. Served into a conical Samuel Smith's pint glass in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are average given the brewery. Acquired at a local SoCal beer store; I've seen this around Westwood.

Served straight from the fridge but allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Paired with salted pretzels.

A: Pours a cola-esque khaki-tan head: quite thin, lacks substantial cream, but retains well (~5 minutes, pretty impressive for 10%). Body colour is a solid dark black; not a jet black or silky but black. No yeast particles are visible; it's nontransparent and opaque. No bubble show. Light thin lacing as the head slowly recedes.

Sm: Chocolate, chocolate malt, dark malts, buried roast, a bit of vanilla, light plum/stonefruit, and caramel. Not real bourbon-y, with the vanilla and caramel ringing distinct rather than as part of a whole. A bit of oak wood. No yeast character comes through. Alcohol is well concealed. Bready and a bit burnt. It's evocative but not very deep in terms of flavour depth. I'm excited to try it. A mild strength aroma.

T/Mf: Hrm. It feels like a messy blend of two different beers - probably because that's what it is. Bourbon-y oaky dark malts collide with competing plum notes, biscuit malt, and light vinous character. No balance here at all. The mouthfeel is a mess too; silky and artifically smooth up front which coarsens and dries as it hits the lees-like Belgian dark feel. Carbonation is good. Light oak is a highlight but lacks depth. Alcohol is evident. Heavy thick caramel and bready notes. A bit roasty on the finish, with hints of cold pressed generic coffee. Overly sweet, with artificial vanilla hitting on the climax. Hot and gushed. There's definite boozy warmth here. It doesn't lack body, but it's inconsistent and unfocused. Boy, this one isn't doing me well.

Dr: Something of a sipper, with boozy character warming the stomach. Its messy unfocused flavour profile coupled with its scattershot mouthfeel make it a tough one to drink compared to other beers in the style. This one misses the mark a bit; I feel like either of the two constituent beers would be better on their own. Priced high for the lack of quality. I wouldn't buy this again. I'm distrusting of Almanac now; I've had too many underwhelming beers from them. A very average beer.


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Photo of seedyone
3/5  rDev -25.7%

On tap at Rattle n Hum, NYC. Took a chance on this as it was highly recommended by fellow bar flies. I usually enjoy dark, rich brews but this lacked a few basics elements that I'd hoped to find. Aroma was very promising. A hint of coffe/toffee that never developed on the tongue. IMHO the flavors were overly assertive on the tart side.

I realize Almanac specializes in sours, which I have a low tolerence for, but reading a description of "a blend of American imperial stout & Belgian-inspired dark ale aged in bourbon barrels" had me. I'm big on all three.

This reminded me of Ommegang's Abbey Ale Dubbel. More of a wine barrel taste.

I guess to each his own still applies.

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Photo of pants678
3.21/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

No head but black body.

Some barrel, vanilla might be reaching.

Is this not from a pinot barrel? The back's got more than a tinge of sour. Might need to be dialed back a tad. Still, there's a nice blend of bourbon barrel to it. Though it's interesting, I'd love to have either separate. Hard to pick out nuance, little chocolate, no coffee.

Smooth, very cola-esque carbonation.

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Photo of jrob21
3.25/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottle thanks to AtlAggie. Smooth dark fruit drink. Lots of soy sauce and peat. Big barrel presence and a chalky texture. This one should be laid down for a nother couple of years to let it meld together a little bit. The flavor is a little too big and pungent with the soy sauce aspects right now. I can only imagine what this is going to become in another year or two.

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Photo of flayedandskinned
3.29/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Bottled on 1/30/13
Poured into a standard tulip glass.

Appearance: (4)
Pours a midnight black with a nice, 2 fingers tall khaki head that has some nice retention. The head eventually falls to a nice quarter finger cap, leaving no retention behind.

Aroma: (3.75)
Rich aromas of sweet dark fruits waft up to your nose as soon as you pour the beer; mostly plum, cherry and fig. Building right alongside these sweet tones are impressions of coconut and vanilla from the bourbon barrel. As the beer warms, the barrel character begins to fade and more of the sweet fruit undertones, paired with a creamy chocolate presence become apparent. Underneath this sweetness, there is a very subtle astringent coffee tone.

Taste: (3)
Similar to the nose, your palate is struck immediately by waves of sweet fruit; mostly plums, cherries and figs. Underneath these fruits is a light streak of bitter coffee and chocolate. The beer finishes watery with lingering notes of chocolate, sweet fruit and coffee. There are some nice notes of coconut and vanilla from the barrel. There is a sizable alcohol presence.

Mouthfeel: (3)
Thin, a tad watery with moderate carbonation.

Overall: (3.25)
I had hopes for this beer; A Dark Belgian Strong aged in Bourbon barrels and then blended with an Imperial Stout? This should be awesome! I was expecting a very robust, creamy ale and what this turned out to be is a thin beer with some decent barrel character. After trying Almanac's Farmhouse Reserve No. 3, and I had bigger hopes for this.

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Photo of SteveTheDog
3.34/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

I like wine & drank this our of an oversized wine glass and it looked like wine, albeit a little dark & with a good head on it. I got hits of cherries and some dark chocolate in the nose - big fan of that. The taste was a little underwhelming though - it tasted a little on the dirty side but with a clean aftertaste. It was nice once, but I don't plan on having a second.

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Photo of Pecan
3.34/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Pours dark brown/black with small tan head.

Hints of spice, oak, and dark fruits on the nose.

Slight malt taste in the beginning, but is quickly overpowered by an astringent, spice taste with dark fruits replacing the caramel beginnings. Barrel flavor is significantly diminished. Some bitterness lingers at the end along with a subtle dark fruit aftertaste.

Mouthfeel begins nicely, but finishes with too much carbonation combining with the spice and bitterness.

This wasn't awful, but seemed significantly influenced by Belgian dark ales and not so much by bourbon or stouts. Judging based on that, it is certainly unique, but does not hold up to other Belgian style quads. Doubt I would buy this again, but certainly a unique beer that I'm glad to have tried.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.59/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pour is extremely dark brown looking black in the glass with a tan head and large bubbles. The nose is nice, rich dark malts, light vanilla and a fair bit of milk chocolate. There are notes of wood and a faint touch of whiskey. Body is a bit thinner that I would have liked with a soft carbonation and creamy feel. The wood is stronger in the flavor, notes of vanilla thinning in the finish. Malt isn't as rich as the nose with some chocolate and hint of roast.

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Photo of mactrail
3.66/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Local Habit in San Diego. At first glance it's a total blackout in the snifter, but after some drinking it appears dark brown with a ruby glint. Just a brief rising of foam that settles down to an oil slick. Rather prickly on the tongue.

Mouthfeel is a little on the goopy side. Hugely rich with a lot of sugar taste. Deeply toasted malt is the backbone, with just a little sharpness coming through eventually. Big burnt sugar taste provides some bitterness but hops are virtually absent. Dark fruity flavor of dates and a whiff of vanilla in the nose. A relentless and robust brew that is more like a too-rich dessert than a beer. Worth a try, however, for barrel aficionados.

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Photo of gueuzedreg
3.69/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A- Lighter brown, thin coffee lacing

S- lots of oak, not so much bourbon or anything like that.

T- Very thin taste, somewhat creamy on the end

M- Thin, not a huge fan of the attention to detail on the M

O- Not really impressed with this, I think they do better sours

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Photo of dirtylou
3.72/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

on-tap, brouwers

I've really liked some of the farmers reserve beers, but this one didn't do it for me. Not much of a RIS, though I'm not really sure that was the intent. Cocoa powder, strong sweetness, trace bourbon, vanilla, chocolate covered cherry, a bit of oak. Just average.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.74/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

My first beer from this brewery. Cola-brown pour with a small tan head that retained moderately and left minimal spotty lacing. In the nose, dark malts, dark dried fruits, esters, yeast, oak. Hmm...well, really no bourbon, and all things considered, there were some traces of possible infection noted; nothing overly offensive, but something didn't seem quite right. Unlike the aroma, I did get some bourbon and vanilla in the taste, barrel, dark malts, plum and red grapes. Some astringent and estery off-flavors crept in towards the end, leading me once again to believe this beer (or this bottle anyway) was on the verge of being infected. And yet it was still at a point where I found it tasty. Medium body, which makes sense when you understand this is only 50% stout. Despite its "flaws" or whatever may have been going on in this bottle, it was still an interesting brew, and I'd like to try it again for a second opinion.

Want more from this brewery. Trade please.

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Photo of tectactoe
3.76/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to Jeff for cracking this one. Pours very dense and nearly black with the smallest, deep-brown skin at the time, a pretty long cry from being called a "head", even after a straight-down pour. No real lacing or legging of any sort, just a fairly dark and still, troubling looking beer. A little more carbonation certainly wouldn't hurt.

Somewhat musky and deep roasted cocoa beans are the first things to jump out and hit my senses. Quickly following is a brigade of woody and oak notes; surprisingly enough, the bourbon isn't that strong - actually, it's hardly even noticeable in the aroma. Light caramel and sweet, sticky brown sugar softens the finish, coupled alongside some plums, dates, and even a touch of apple skins. Solid barrel-stout aroma with a nice finishing sweetness at the end.

The first sip is pretty heavier up-front - a bit heavier than the smooth aroma would have you guessing. Boozy and strong, but not quite akin to smooth bourbon. It's more of a sharp and abrasive booziness; think straight Jack Daniel's whiskey. It hits hard up front and haunts the palate from start to finish. I'm typically a fan of some nice boozy flavors in my beers, but this one could use some time to mellow out.

Other actually flavors from the profile include some lightly milky chocolates, molasses, nuts, and a strong, woody, polished finish. Barrel Noir leaves your palate a touch sticky and coated with a nutty-oak flavor that's been soaking for days in a vat of Tennessee whiskey. The mouth feel is pretty nice - big and boisterous, heavy bodied and full of itself, and even slightly creamy due to the low carbonation.

I feel that if the bourbon character of this one was toned down a bit, it would be pretty damn great. As it stands, it's simply a good barrel-aged beer that is a little to boozy to enjoy for any prolonged beer drinking period of time. Perhaps waiting this one out is a better route.

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Photo of BMMillsy
3.78/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from George. Thanks! Pours dark brown to black with just a ring of light brown head. Big oaky aroma with plenty of bourbon, roast, some smoke, big caramel and toffee, anise, and just a hint of vanilla. The caramel toffee continues onto the flavor making this much more a barleywine or strong ale than imperial stout. Big caramel notes, vanilla, bourbon, roast, toffee, oak, drying at the end on the palate. The mouthfeel is way thin on this one, with medium carbonation that prickles just a bit in the throat. The barrel is integrated nicely here with interesting flavors, but the carbonation level and thin mouthfeel for a big beer really detract from what could otherwise be a rich treat. Still a good beer, but I'm not sure why they mixed the stout back with some obviously lighter bodied dark beer. Just stick the stout in barrels--I guess uniqueness is valued to some extent.

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Photo of nataku00
3.79/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into a tulip. Beer is a dark opaque cola brown color with a thin tan colored wispy head. Head dissipates to a collar of bubbles quickly, leaving some light lacing. A decent amount of fine carbonation visible at the edge of the glass.

Nose has a bit of milk chocolate, dark fruits, cherry, plums, dark bread, some yeast spiciness, clove mainly, some light oak notes, mainly vanilla and a bit of toasted wood.

Taking a sip, there are more roasted notes than in the aroma, mainly roasted malt with some mild coffee, more lighter milk chocolate, yeast spice and esters. Not as much dark fruit in taste, there but just an accent in flavor. Finish is medium, with lingering roasted malt, toasted oak, vanilla and bourbon.

Lighter side of medium body, plenty of fine carbonation sharply pricking at the tongue. There are some interesting flavors here, but the lighter mouthfeel prevents the flavors from really being prominent on the tongue.

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Photo of PsilohsaiBiN
3.79/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle has no date, though I'm assuming this is a '13.

Appearance: Pours black, as a stout should, with one finger of fluffy beige head. There's lots of carbonation sticking to side of glass if you check for legs, which it has.

Smell: Dark fruit, dark chocolate, coffee, caramel and slight coconut(from the barrel). There's definitely a detectable booze element.

Taste: Talk about barrel character...Beginning is dark chocolate with a touch of coconut that thereafter gets overpowered by a Bourbon punch with some tobacco-like spiciness. After the bourbon/tobacco subsides, you're left with some nice malty roast that fades out into a dry finish. Man, the Bourbon element in this is strong and boozy.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied for the style with good carbonation.

Overall: Blind, I'd've pegged this at least 10% and 100% barrel aged. Though it was drinkable now, I'd personally lay this down for 1+ years. This is a bit boozy and could definitely benefit from some time in the cellar. Kind of reminds me of Parabola, which isn't a bad thing.

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Photo of corby112
3.8/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to sideshowe for sharing.

Pours a dark chestnut brown color that appears pith black and opaque in the glass with a 1.5 finger mocha head that quickly settles into a thin ring. Decent retention with sporadic streaks of lacing left behind.

Inviting aroma with a nice barrel presence that's nicely integrated into the other notes. Strong dark fruit esters and roasted malt character countering the wood and bourbon. Some charred oak and vanilla with vinous dark fruit and robust dark malts. Belgian dark ale notes stand out as it warms. Plum, fig and raisin along with roasted coffee, oatmeal and bitter dark cacao.

Lighter end of medium body with a delicate barrel presence that's nicely integrated into he imperial stout and dark Belgian ale flavors of the base. Some dry, toasted oak and subtle spicy bourbon with a touh of vanilla and toasted coconut. Not overwhelmingly hot or boozy with subtle spirit flavor. The dark ale portion of the blend is prominent with dark fruit esters giving off hints grape, cherry, plum and raisin. Stout notes are a bit overpowered with subtle roast, coffee bean, and oatmeal. Some lighter malt sweetness with caramel, toffee and sweeter chocolate notes. Really well balanced and the high ABV is well masked. Very easy to drink but it could use a bit more bourbon and stout character.

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Photo of RuckusDu
3.82/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Been digging on Almanac and have luckily received a few as extras. This was one of them. 375ml bottle into Duvel tulip. Winter 2012.

More of an effervescent head than the thick and creamy you normally find on a stout. About a finger of light mocha colored head. Body is black but a fair amount of light shone through on the pour. Aroma is very sweet. Candied sugar, a hint of cinnamon, chocolate, and a little dark fruit. Flavor is a little bitter for me. Alcohol comes through. I don't know how to describe it. Exactly as you would expect - dark ale, stout, bourbon barrel. Still getting a little cinnamon. Good carbonation and a thinner body.

Overall there is a lot of the dark ale coming through and I don't know how well it blends with the bourbon. It is something different from the typical barrel aged stout, but just a small bit off.

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Photo of emerge077
3.86/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to WST for this one! BBQ victory winnings finale, shared with Aaron.

Pitch black, some tobacco-stained chestnut highlights when held to the light. Thin vein of tan foam, spotty flecks of lace around the edges.

Anise in the aroma big time, licorice and roasted malt comprise the main elements, with some barrel heat as well.

Roasty char, malt sweetness, chocolate syrup, sweet pipe tobacco. Full bodied with a bite from the bourbon barrel, finish is a bit thin though. Werthers butterscotch candy and milk chocolate. Dry finish, fairly smooth. Overall it's pretty good, but is lacking a certain something to make it unique.

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Photo of ThickNStout
3.88/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

375mL bottle from j47paco (much appreciated!). Bottled winter 2012. Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

Pours black with a finger and a half of soft tan head. The froth lingers but then settles to a thin cap, leaving small islands of lace.

The smells of smooth chocolate and sweet barrel dominate. I say barrel because the bourbon, vanilla and oak all seem to play in to one harmonious, inviting aroma that plays well with the chocolate, brown sugar and what seems to me like a hint of oats.

No surprises in the taste after that nose. Subtle bourbon, cocoa, slightly charred oak, vanilla, creamed coffee, mild roast malts, brown sugar and a touch of alcohol. A rounded and supple barrel aged stout that is quite easy to drink.

Creamy, smooth, medium body with soft carbonation. Aftertaste of bourbon, dark cocoa and hints of charred oak with a vanilla tinge.

I'm assuming that the 15+ months of age is what makes this such a soft and rounded imperial stout. Ultimately (and ironically) I think the smooth lack of edges that I like most in this is also what holds it back from truly standing out. A tasty and enjoyable brew but without anything to really raise it above the higher echelon of barreled imperial stouts out there.

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Photo of rudzud
3.88/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Received in a trade and poured into my Duvel tulip.

A - Pours a darker brown, but not black, hue with a nice thick quarter inch mocha head that leaves lots of side lacing and great retention. Makes up for the almost transparent brown hue.

S - At first I really liked this, but, upon digging..ehh. Bourbon explodes on the nose, which is just awesome. Then, digging around I get anise, light buttery oak, darker fruits, and an almost metallic aroma.

T - Taste is again, a disappointment. Was expecting more, while tasty though. Vanilla marshmallow, fudge, lighter bourbon and oak, caramel, more of the butteryoak. Not nearly as earthy/roasty/chocolate bourbon as I'd been hoping.

M - Mouthfeel is a bit more carbonated than used to for the style results this in coming across as thin / watery which is a shame. The alcohol is hidden nicely though.

O - Overall, this was a BA stout that had so much potential but the lack of bourbon on the taste, the odd mild butter notes, and the overly thin mouthfeel killed this one. A shame.

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Photo of GJ40
3.89/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Sampled from a 500ml? bottle purchased at K&L in Redwood City.

A - Beautiful bottle. And I love the farm to barrel concept. More brown than black on the initial pour but looks black once the glass is full. A small tan head.

S - Bourbon, vanilla, oak, chocolate and brown sugar. Complex and balanced.

T - Bourbon, vanilla and roasted barley. It starts better than it finishes. There's an out of place bitterness toward the end.

M - A little thin for the style. Low to moderate carbonation.

O - Solid from appearance to aroma to it hitting the palate. But it goes down hill in the finish.

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Photo of maximum12
3.9/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to kyle2k10 for this bottle during our second go-round. 375ML bottle with some pretty cool art tattooed right onto the bottle, poured in to my big old Terrapin chalice, which I don't use nearly enough.

Pour is black, showing faint signs of life. Nose is light barrel, vanilla mostly, with a bite of chocolate & significant roast.

Barrel Noir is smoother than Will Smith's smile. The whole beer has rolled in smooth, there's virtually no friction at all as it slides past the molars. After that distraction, the tastes takes a back seat. Plenty of slow roast, followed by the warming chest cavity by the booze; drinks a lot higher than it's labelled. Vanilla knocks only after the beer warms & fills the mid-palate to the brim. Bitter chocolate rounds out the lineup. I find myself drinking this far too quickly for a big-beer on a school night.

Did I mention this brew is smooth? This grew on me as it warmed; really unimpressive at lower temps, this one needs a warm fire or cupped hands to shine. This isn't Men in Black of I Am Legend, but it might be I, Robot. Very good beer.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.92/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle shared by Chris (spycow). Served in a snifter.

A - Tan foam settles to a thick collar, wisps, and minimal lace. Dark brown body with some ruby-brown transparency when held to the light.

S - Lots of bourbon barrel, oak, roasted malts, charred wood, a slightly buttery note, anise, dark chocolate, and well-concealed alcohol.

T - More malt character, with less overt bourbon and oak character. Caramel, roasted malts, vanilla marshmallow, fudge, and again the same buttery note I picked up in the aroma. Still, pretty enjoyable on the whole.

M - Medium body, and a tad thin and watery for the listed 10%. Dry, oaky, and tannic, with light alcohol warmth that is less than one would expect.

D - A solid barrel-aged stout, although it's marred by a mildly buttery note and an overly thin body.

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Photo of IvoryFoxhole
3.94/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Aged about 2 years. Poured into Belgian ale glass.

Pours a very dark chocolate brown with a 2 finger head that lasts a long while, leaving a ring and some lacing.

Smells of cocoa, bourbon, dried stone fruit.

Bourbon, coffee, cocoa, some raisin up front. Malt and some alcohol behind.

Reasonably well-balanced, maybe could have used another year or two. Medium-bodied, little carbonation, some alcohol burn.

Not bad.

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Barrel Noir from Almanac Beer Co.
90 out of 100 based on 75 ratings.